Beware the online scammers

DONNA BARNES has made over 2000 transactions on the popular Internet auction site Ebay, and she still got scammed.

Ms Barnes had an online business selling children's clothing and also buys and sells furniture on the Internet.

But several months ago she paid $60 for a couple of beach towels that never turned up.

“Ebay is pretty good at picking them up - that person is no longer registered,” she said.

Ms Barnes said the company had tightened its transaction systems in the past six months and encouraged people to use the Paypal secure payment system, which is owned by Ebay.

“I bought a picture for $11 that didn't turn up and was reimbursed by Paypal immediately,” she said.

Ms Barnes' experiences are repeated over and over in reports that find their way to Detective Sergeant Stephen Clark, the region's top cop for investigating Internet fraud.

As investigation manager for all fraud in the Richmond Local Area Command, Det Sgt Clark said Internet fraud was on the increase.

“The majority of our work is Internet fraud. The numbers are increasing in this LAC (Local Area Command). I've been here two years, but that trend is across the board,” he said.

Most people are wary of hoax emails wanting you to send bank account details to small African nations, but Det Sgt Clark said Internet fraud came in many different forms.

“It's usually much more subtle than that,” he said. “A lot of fraud is related to the Internet auction sites, where for various reasons people choose not to use the site safety mechanisms to conduct their transactions,” he said.

Det Sgt Clark said he had seen several examples recently of people getting in direct contact with a seller after failing in an auction bid. They then paid for a similar item that did not turn up.

Another common scam is to offer a non-existent item for sale using fake photos.

“We've had instances where fake vehicle chassis numbers have been supplied. People do the appropriate checks, then when they get the item, they find it's a different number,” Det Sgt Clark

“That becomes exacerbated when people are spending so much money on an unseen product. They have thousands of dollars riding on an unseen product; it increases the trauma of the incident and the financial implications.”

Det Sgt Clark's advice to people trading online is to be wary of contacting people they did not know outside of the protected auction sites and to be wary of buying expensive items unseen.

“You should be wary of the price if it's too good to be true,” he said.

Victims of Internet fraud did not fall into any particular category of age, gender or household income, but were right across the spectrum, Det Sgt Clark said.

“You should be wary of the price if it's too good to be true.”



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